05.12.2012 19:37
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EDF Energy plc -- Moody's changes outlook on EDF's Aa3 rating to negative from stable

London, 05 December 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service has today changed to negative from stable the outlook on the Aa3 senior unsecured ratings of Electricité de France (EDF). Concurrently, Moody's has also changed to negative from stable the outlook on the A3 ratings of EDF's wholly owned subsidiaries, EDF Energy plc and EDF Trading Limited, which incorporate support from their ultimate parent.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The change of outlook to negative from stable follows the recent ruling by France's Conseil d'Etat which cancelled the decision relating to the electricity distribution tariffs for the third regulatory period (2009-2013, known as TURPE 3). Although EDF considers that the decision should not have an impact on its financial results, in Moody's view it adds to the challenges faced by the group from rising debt and pressured profitability. It therefore increases the risk that the group will be unable to maintain a leverage profile that is aligned with Moody's guidance for the Aa3 rating.

The Conseil d'Etat's decision was based on its judgment that the methodology used by the CRE, the French electricity regulator, for calculating the capital return on the electricity distribution network of ERDF, EDF's subsidiary, is incorrect since it did not take account of the nature of the concessions assets and renewal provisions. The distribution network charges for TURPE 3 have therefore been incorrectly calculated. There remains uncertainty surrounding the amount and timing of any remedies that might be required, and their potential impact on EDF. The group itself considers that the decision should not have an impact on its financial results because of the nature of its integrated tariffs.

However, in Moody's view, there remains some risk of a negative financial impact on the group whether from any potential remedy, or from the revised methodology which the CRE is required to propose by June 2013.

The negative outlook takes account of the increase in EDF's net financial debt to EUR39.7 billion at end-June 2012 as a result of its acquisition of Edison; higher capital expenditure; and the rising Contribution au Service Public de l'Electricite (CSPE) balance. It also reflects a flat outlook for the group's profitability in 2013, under pressure from rising nuclear safety costs and weaker power generation earnings in certain markets outside France.

In changing the outlook on EDF's ratings, Moody's takes account of the group's efforts to ease the burden on its balance sheet, and to underpin profitability in order to achieve its 2.5x net debt/EBITDA leverage target. The outlook change factors in the group's ongoing discussions with the government regarding CSPE. Moreover, Moody's notes EDF's ongoing review of its operating costs and capital expenditure (capex) trajectory, which currently includes rising investment in renewables, new nuclear plant builds and its gas strategy.

Nevertheless, Moody's expects the negative pressure on EDF's free cash flow generation to continue, partly as a result of the group's substantial capital investment commitments. These include the Flamanville EPR, the cost estimate for which was recently increased by a further EUR2 billion to EUR8 billion, with planned commissioning maintained for 2016.

The negative outlook therefore reflects the risk, in Moody's view, that measures taken by the group to manage its leverage could be insufficient to ensure its credit metrics remain well positioned against the following guidelines: (1) RCF/net debt in the mid- to upper teens in percentage terms; and (2) FFO/net debt in the high teens/low 20s range in percentage terms.

In light of EDF's 84.48% ownership by the Government of France (Aa1 negative), the group falls under Moody's rating methodology for government-related issuers (GRIs) and its Aa3 rating incorporates a two-notch uplift from its standalone credit quality for potential government support.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP/DOWN

Given the current uncertainties and risks with regard to EDF's cash flows, as reflected by the negative outlook, Moody's does not consider an upgrade of the group's ratings to be likely in the near term.

Negative pressure could be exerted on EDF's a2 Baseline Credit Assessment (BCA) in the event of a sustained deterioration in the group's financial profile, as would be evidenced, for example, by a retained cash flow (RCF)/net debt ratio in the low teens in percentage terms on a sustainable basis. Such a deterioration could result from lower-than-expected profitability, capital investment unsupported by cash flow generation or large debt-funded acquisitions. In the context both of increased demands on national budgets and a two-notch rating uplift under Moody's GRI methodology, it is likely that negative pressure would be exerted on EDF's Aa3 rating were the BCA to deteriorate to a3 from a2.

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The methodologies used in this rating were Unregulated Utilities and Power Companies published in August 2009, and Government-Related Issuers: Methodology Update published in July 2010. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of these methodologies.

Electricité de France, headquartered in Paris, France, is a leading integrated provider of electricity generation, transmission, distribution and supply services. It reported turnover of EUR36.2 billion during the first six months of 2012 and EBITDA of EUR9.1 billion.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

The ratings have been disclosed to the rated entities or their designated agent(s) and issued with no amendment resulting from that disclosure.

Information sources used to prepare each of the ratings are the following: parties involved in the ratings, parties not involved in the ratings, public information, and confidential and proprietary Moody's Investors Service information.

Moody's considers the quality of information available on the rated entities, obligations or credits satisfactory for the purposes of issuing these ratings.

Moody's adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning the ratings is of sufficient quality and from sources Moody's considers to be reliable including, when appropriate, independent third-party sources. However, Moody's is not an auditor and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information received in the rating process.

Moody's Investors Service may have provided Ancillary or Other Permissible Service(s) to the rated entities or their related third parties within the two years preceding the credit rating action. Please see the special report "Ancillary or other permissible services provided to entities rated by MIS's EU credit rating agencies" on the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

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Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history. The date on which some ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's provides a date that it believes is the most reliable and accurate based on the information that is available to it. Please see the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

In addition to the information provided below please find on the ratings tab of the issuer page at www.moodys.com, for each of the ratings covered, Moody's disclosures on the lead rating analyst and the Moody's legal entity that has issued each of the ratings.

Niel Bisset Senior Vice President Infrastructure Finance Moody's Investors Service Ltd. One Canada SquareCanary WharfLondon E14 5FA United Kingdom JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454 Monica Merli MD - Infrastructure Finance Infrastructure Finance JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454 Releasing Office: Moody's Investors Service Ltd. One Canada SquareCanary WharfLondon E14 5FA United Kingdom JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454 (C) 2012 Moody's Investors Service, Inc. and/or its licensors and affiliates (collectively, "MOODY'S"). All rights reserved.

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